Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English

Policy Contexts for DLLs and ELs

Policies matter: they set assumptions and expectations for what and how English Learners should learn in schools. Over the past 50 years, federal policies have progressively sought to support academic learning outcomes for English Learners by addressing the reality that limited English proficiency poses a significant barrier to subject matter content mastery in schools where English is the primary language of instruction and assessment.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, states now play a more critical role in providing guidance to and monitoring districts and schools to ensure that English Learners are not denied services under the law or discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin. Greater state flexibility in accountability under ESSA has led to concerns among civil rights and other organizations focused on underserved populations, such as English Learners, about protecting the legal rights of English Learners to an appropriate education as guaranteed under the Supreme Court decision in Lau v. Nichols, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, and other relevant laws. Early education programs have diverse funding sources and hence different applicable regulations for program delivery. While Head Start has issued clear guidance concerning what constitutes quality programs for young children and the engagement of families of Dual Language Learners, comparable guidance regarding Dual Language Learners does not exist for child care and home visiting programs. State-level guidance to state-funded pre-K programs varies by state; few states have addressed standards and practices regarding Dual Language Learners.

Who are DLLs and ELs and Policies that Affect Them